DEI in Sustain: Understanding the universal perspectives

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are rare topics of discussion in most parts of the world to date. People across the globe have subjective views on DEl as expected.

Therefore, what this variability might mean for someone in North America or Europe could mean something else for someone in Asia, Australia, or Africa, for example, and vice-versa.

Depending on whom you ask, everyone’s thoughts on Diversity and Inclusion are different. When the topics of Diversity and inclusion are raised in most parts of the world, there is this general stereotype that it’s refer only to Gender and sexual orientation. Over the years, there has been DEI research from Linux Foundation, and GitHub Open Source Survey and lots more. The feedback from these reports suggests that most people refer to inclusion as diversity in the population based on gender, race, and sexuality.

As we know, DEI goes far beyond that!

After the just concluded Sustain Africa meetup, I observed that, with these meetups, we are able to hear different thoughts on how projects, documentation, design, marketing, data Science and and programs can be focused on to sustain open source. However, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, a key topic for maintaining and supporting healthy open-source communities, was missing from the list.

We cannot wholly tackle the DEI challenges within the open source that threaten our communities’ health if we do not understand different perspectives on DEI from Africa, Asia, North America, Europe, South America, and Australia

With the help of Sustain and its meetups, we can continuously have dialogs and outcome-oriented discussions from different regions of the world on DEI and identify common challenges based on individual experiences and possible means to tackle them. This will be a great avenue to spread the word on the importance of Diversity, Equity, and inclusion within our communities and introduce standard DEI best practices to a larger audience.

This is a call to consider having Diversity, Equity, and inclusion as one of the focus areas in Sustain.


We can continuously have dialogs and outcome-oriented discussions from different regions of the world on DEI and identify common challenges based on individual experiences and possible means to tackle them.

Sounds good to me. Sustain is largely self-organizing, although I am happy to do what I can to help. Given your goals, how would you like to start? A working-group meeting, or a shared document, or something else?

While there is not enough capacity to even sustain those who write the source, people just won’t have time for that. With enough social pressure it should be possible to force people to spend their time on DEI, but that would come at the cost of supporting the codebase.

I will put forward something, an article perhaps, so we can at least make time for this at an upcoming Sustain Together call as a start. I think Sustain Together at least can always make time for DEI with an emphasis on including underrepresented voices. We’ve talked about it before but there’s always some time for this conversation in my opinion.

1 Like

I shared this topic in the last sustain meeting, but we had some questions that came up

  • whether or not a WG would be ideal
  • If yes, how will this be different from the CHAOSS DEI WG
  • How to scale

Ideally, when I thought of this, these were the goals I figured could move it forward:

  • Include DEI tracks and discussions to understand the universal thoughts on Diversity at each sustain unconference meetup

  • Podcast sessions with Leading DEI advocates

  • Deliberate on discussion outcomes as a group

  • Collaborate with communities championing DEI efforts like CHAOSS and All In to develop metrics and best practices that address any issues raised in our discussions.

I agree with @anthonyronda to discuss this once more at sustain together to have more opinions on this topic.

Hey Anita! I would be really interested in this topic too. Our Developer Relations team at GitLab is working on some DEI initiatives for the contributor community and trying to learn more about what other open source projects have tried.

1 Like

Thanks for the thoughts on moving forward!

  • We normally have DEI conversations at Sustain conferences.
  • I’m happy to talk to any DEI advocates on the podcast. We’ve interviewed a fair few - let me know if there are more guests you think I should reach out to. We’re also always actively working to diversify who we interview and our podcasts hosts.
  • I think your last two points sound like a DEI working group. We had one, once, but it disbanded due to general lack of movement forward. I’m happy to start it up again if you think it would help, however!

Whatever the format of work here, it’s definitely a big area. It feels like there are plenty of good individual resources on how to help general organizations learn about and work on DEI concepts - but not as many that are explained in terms that open source communities find easier to understand and to directly implement in their existing communication and governance processes.

Attending a BOF at Community Over Code in Halifax, there was a great perspective that inclusion needs to incorporate basic culture and language expectations as well. One BOF attendee discussed how the combination of their culture and language made it much harder for their fellow contributors to come join new projects. Obviously having translations of basic READMEs is a big part, but they mentioned that even an attempt or ask by projects to explicitly welcome non-English speakers goes a long way.

Are there any really well vetted lists of simple-to-read and put into practice templates and guides that can be easily shared with FOSS communities in a general way?

I don’t know of any. This would be a good resource!

There are lots of books on international business etiquette that could be a starting point. Or this -

I think this one is useful around framing the questions to consider, especially around gender:

1 Like

After seeing how much engagement this topic got, I took the initiative to reboot the DEI working group. This way, we can lead discussion topics and efforts on diversity, equity, and inclusion that will potentially be helpful to open-source communities.

I would like to get your thoughts on this.

Hi Anita,

In general I think it’s an excellent idea, especially if it includes cross-cultural perspectives. I wish I could sign myself up to help, but I’m starting a new job at the end of the month so my calendar and my head are both pretty crowded right now. I wish you every success and hope that I can get involved sometime in the future.

Best wishes!